Institutional Sustainability in Agriculture and Rural Development: A Global Perspective

By Derick W. Brinkerhoff; Arthur A. Goldsmith | Go to book overview

4
Analyzing Institutional Sustainability: An Action- Inquiry Methodology

Kurt Finsterbusch and Marcus D. Ingle

Swift change is predictable in the arena of international development. Governments rise and fall: administrations change. New issues are raised; new terminology becomes popular. As noted in Chapter 2, sustainability has emerged as a key development issue in the past few years. Such issues frequently present a dilemma for policymakers: how to respond appropriately, in the short run, with incomplete knowledge, and act in ways that will improve the knowledge base for future decision making. First, policymakers need to find out how to deal with immediate problems, and second, they need guidelines with widespread applicability. In the long run, they need to feel that they have a more reliable basis for action, although they have little money for inquiry. Therefore, policymakers require a methodology that will marshal available knowledge to guide their immediate decisions and actions while simultaneously improve the knowledge base to increase the effectiveness of their future ones.

In this chapter we propose the Action-Inquiry Methodology (AIM) as a generic methodology to deal with policymakers' twin needs for action and knowledge. AIM utilizes both an action stream and an inquiry stream. The action stream has priority because AIM is designed for operating agencies that have action mandates. In this setting, research is justified only to the extent that it contributes to the effectiveness of actions in a cost effective manner. In according priority to action over research, AIM resembles evaluation research. What Weiss ( 1972:7) points out for evaluation research is also true for AIM: "Evaluation takes

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